We Texas School Superintendents Are Struggling to Help Low-income Students Succeed

There has been a gradual shift in a student group that now makes up the majority of our K-12 public school students in America as well as in Texas. And we're not talking about race or ethnicity.Students who are economically disadvantaged now represent 51 percent of students nationally and 60 percent of public school students in Texas.The reason this number is important is that we are struggling to get the same educational outcomes for most of our low income students, in suburban and urban districts alike, as their non-economically disadvantaged peers.Each of the school districts we lead are within a few percentage points of each other when it comes to STAAR test scores across all grades and all subjects for the economically disadvantaged students we teach. Whether students attend Dallas ISD, Plano ISD, Fort Worth ISD or Richardson ISD, if they are economically disadvantaged, it is extremely likely that their STAAR scores will be nearly identical in any of the four districts.Yet, in each of our districts, the gap between economically disadvantaged and non-economically disadvantaged students who take the same tests is significant.The gap is particularly stark when you look at our third grade reading scores. Third grade reading proficiency is a critical indicator for future academic success, because third grade is when students shift from learning to read to reading to learn. But in some cases our economically disadvantaged students are half as likely to read on grade level in the third grade as those who are not economically disadvantaged.Given the inequity that is inherent in these numbers, and the likelihood that these outcomes will reinforce patterns of multi-generational household poverty, it is imperative that our school districts identify and develop strategies to close these gaps. And once identified, we need the state funding to allow all school districts to focus specifically on helping the students who need it the most.Real equity in education starts with recognizing that students with the greatest burdens need more from our system than their peers. That is the promise of education. And for education to work for all, we have to recognize that equal funding will not provide for equal outcomes.But it has been more than 30 years since any significant adjustments have been made to our state funding formulas to better serve economically disadvantaged students. And in the that time our percentage of economically disadvantaged students in Texas has nearly doubled.The percentage of economically disadvantaged students is expected to continue to rise in North Texas and across the state, and it is critical that we identify, scale and appropriately fund effective strategies that can be used in any district to close student achievement gaps.Solving this challenge is not only a moral imperative, but a smart investment in the future of Texas. That's because the percent of people with postsecondary degrees directly correlates to rising household income, which in turn improves our economy.Working together, sharing data, ideas, and best practices, we are committed as superintendents to providing an excellent education to the next generation of North Texans, regardless of their household income.Michael Hinojosa is superintendent of Dallas ISD.Sara Bonser is superintendent of Plano ISD.Jeannie Stone is superintendent of Richardson ISD.Kent Scribner is superintendent of Fort Worth ISD.They wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.   Continue reading...

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